Jim Furyk, who earned his first major title last week at the U.S. Open, returned to action with a 5-under 66 to share second place with Joey Sindelar.
'I got three really good nights of sleep after hardly sleeping at all Sunday, so I'm well-rested,' said Furyk, who is trying to join Hale Irwin and Ernie Els as the only players to follow a U.S. Open win with a title at Westchester the following week. 'I haven't run out of steam yet and my game physically is in good shape. As long as I keep concentrating well, I'll be in good shape.'
Tiger Woods, who has never won this event in two previous starts as a professional, opened with a 4-under-par 67 to share fourth place with Shigeki Maruyama and 2001 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
Woods collected five birdies through 10 holes but bogeyed the 13th and 15th holes. He birdied the last, the par-5 18th, to get within four shots of the lead.
Woods, who has not won on tour since Bay Hill in late March, is trying to break out his so-called 'slump.' He tied for 20th in last week's U.S. Open, his worst finish at the event, and his best finish since Bay Hill was a distant tie for fourth place at the Memorial.
Baird started on the back nine at the West Course at Westchester and did so in style. He holed out a sand-wedge from 77 yards for an eagle at No. 10 and a quick 2-under start.
'The greens were spinning so much that from 77 yards, normally I would hit a little lob-wedge and as it turns out my caddie and I decided to hit a little sand-wedge,' said Baird, who changed his strategy after rain pelted the course during the week. 'That is really a tough shot because you are not used to playing shots that soft and having to take that much spin off the ball.
'Finally, I holed out. I don't think I've holed out in over a year from any distance, so it was a good start.'
The hot beginning was short-lived as Baird missed the green short with a 4- iron at the 11th. He putted up a slope but left his par try 15 feet short of the hole. Baird's par save slid by the right edge so after an eagle start, he gave one back with a bogey.
Baird settled down from there and was the beneficiary of some good fortune. His ball picked up mud but he muscled a 6-iron to the front of the green at No. 13 and watched as the ball rolled five feet from the hole. Baird converted the birdie putt to make up the lost stroke at the 11th.
Baird played some of his best golf around the turn. He holed a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th, two-putted for birdie from 40 feet at 18 and knocked a 5-iron to six feet to set up his third birdie in a row at the first.
At the fourth, Baird knocked a 7-iron to 20 feet and drained the birdie putt. He added another birdie three holes later when his pitching-wedge stopped four feet from the hole.
Baird closed his round with a birdie at the par-5 ninth. His drive landed in a fairway bunker but he laid up short of the green and hit his third to birdie range.
For Baird, his 63 was his lowest round on the PGA Tour and it also represents the first time Baird held the first-round lead in an event.
'I haven't shot anything lower,' said Baird. 'The only time I shot lower was when I played a practice round at where they used play the first Nationwide event in Lakeland at the Grasslands and I made 10 birdies and an eagle at that golf course in a practice round and shot 75-75 the first two days of the tournament and missed the cut by about six. But that's the lowest I've ever shot.'
Furyk was flawless on Thursday with three birdies on his front side, the back nine at Westchester. He added two more on his second nine to join Sindelar in second place.
Sindelar rolled home a 15-foot eagle putt at No. 18, his ninth, to make the turn at 1-under. He tallied four birdies on his second nine to post the low score in the morning tee times.
'I'm thrilled with the round. It was a good, solid round,' said Sindelar, who has not won on tour since 1990. 'You are not going to shoot 65 unless you make putts. You make a putt whether it's a 12-footer for par or an eagle putt, it's always meaningful and gets you set up for what's next and you start believing in yourself.'
Els, a back-to-back winner in 1996-97, shot an opening-round 68 to share seventh place with Deane Pappas, J.L. Lewis and Skip Kendall.
Chris Smith's first round as a defending champion on the PGA Tour did not go well. He carded a 7-over-par 78 and is one stroke out of last place after the first round.